Never Say Die

Scientia potentia est

0 notes &

Around the web XXXVI

Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated. Today does however mark the death of the sound barrier at the hands of a (rocket) plane in level flight - in 1947, by US pilot Chuck Yeager. Other notable anniversaries occurring today include the Battle of Hastings (1066) and the beginning of the Cuban Missle Crisis (1962).

Sci/Tech;

  • Gamers playing a protein folding “game” have succeeded in helping scientists researching the molecular structure of enzymes related to the AIDS virus. The collaborative game, FoldIt, involves players attempting to create 3D molecular structures with the most energy-efficient designs possible (thus matching how the natural versions will work). See MSNBC story.
  • As with previous research into the area, further results continue to indicate that electrical stimulation of the brain can improve learning (it doesn’t make subjects learn better than their max natural level, but it does appear to help them reach that level more quickly and consistently). In this case, learning of motor skills was improved with non-invasive application of electrical current - something that could aid stroke recovery for instance (though in this experiment, it also showed strong effects on normal, healthy subjects). The BBC have more.
  • Slime molds might not sound like the most interesting of topics, but they have quite a history and some strange and some unexpectedly complicated behaviours going on - they can form into multi-celluar co-operative masses, scientists are experimenting with the mathematical properties of their behaviour, etc. A New York Times article explains.
  • Switching to the far end of the scale in terms of simple technology, poor families in the Philippines are getting cheap daytime interior lights for otherwise dark rooms using nothing more complex than a bottle of water. This BBC video explains.
  • This impressive bit of research from SIGGRAPH Asia enables the casual user to insert new objects into existing photographs - with matching perspective, lighting, shadowing, etc. Very cool; see video demo.
  • Deus Ex style replacement limbs draw closer - monkeys have been trained to control a virtual arm using only their brain activity, and have also received sensory feedback from the arm directly into their brains. See BBC article.

Gaming;

  • Max Payne 3 details have been emerging. Here’s a preview from Rock, Paper Shotgun and an interview from GameSpot.
  • Also more details on the new Hitman game, Hitman: Absolution. Here’s an interview and over 15 minutes of gameplay footage.
  • In classic gaming revival that stays truer to its roots, indie game Legend of Grimrock is looking to recapture the classic first-person dungeon crawler (think Bard’s Tale and the likes) in modern form. Looking impressive so far - Rock, Paper Shotgun have more (includes video).
  • In a revival of a much older series, 10 minutes of gameplay footage of the new Syndicate game (now in FPS form) has just been released. Looks like a poor man’s combat-heavy Deus Ex, but we’ll see.
  • The next entry in the X series of space sims, X Rebirth, is in the works; PC Gamer have some details and screenshots.
  • In other gaming news, GOG.com have a half-price sale on classic Atari games this weekend, some real gems in there - Rollercoaster Tycoon, Alone in the Dark, Master of Orion, Total Annihilation, Outcast, Independence War, Blood, etc. Also includes the more modern classic RPG The Witcher for $5, a steal.

Business;

  • The paper that bank notes are printed on (which is actually made of cotton) is serious business, as the BBC report in this inside look at a recently rejuvenated company that produces a lot of it.

Dev;

  • How do you build a 30,000 core cluster with 27 terabytes of RAM and 2 petabytes of disk space? Well, Cycle Computing did it relatively easily using Amazon’s EC2 service. Read all about it.
  • This fascinating rant from Google (formerly Amazon) employee Steve Yegge on the difference in culture between Google and Amazon, the leadership of Jeff Bezos and the effect this has had on their respective platforms and architectures, makes for interesting reading. It was originally intended for a private audience of Googlers, but was accidentally made public and remains so for now (with Steve’s permission and Google’s support).

GameDev;

  • As is their custom, id released the Quake 2 source code some time ago. There are various source ports and indie projects based around the codebase, and now, if you’re interested in such things, Fabien Sanglard has a detailed multi-part review of the Quake 2 code on his blog. Interesting stuff - he goes into the rendering, visibility management, etc, with reference to the specific implementation details from the code and the architectures around it.
  • Also on the historical game engines front, Sean Barrett recollects the rendering technology he worked on for Thief’s software rendering engine in this article.

Misc;

  • The BBC have the story of a German Jew who acted as a translator for American psychiatrists at Nuremberg, and his sometimes surreal interactions with the senior Nazis there (who didn’t know he was Jewish).
  • When an eagle owl comes blasting in in ulta slow-motion, here’s what it looks like.
  • Paul Lukas discovered around 400 report cards from a Manhattan girls’ school dating from the 1920’s. In the first of a series of articles for the Slate, he talks about how he found the cards, how they changed his life, and the stories they contained.
  • Following the recent survival of a 67 year-old man for six days after crashing his car in a forest near LA, the BBC have some rounded up several other famous tales of amazing human survival; see article.
  • This BBC gallery highlights some innovative school building designs from around the world, as featured in an architectural showcase.
  • Speaking of design, in New York City two chaps with no experience of urban planning or the likes managed to succeed in building a park up in the air - along a mile or so of derelict elevated railway line. See video.

Filed under aroundtheweb

0 notes &

Around the web XXXV

Again to the date; today marks the establishment of the CIA (in 1947), Tiffany’s (in 1837) and ICANN (in 1998), the birth of Ronaldo (in 1976) and the death of one Jimi Hendrix (in 1970).

Sci/tech;

  • Nuclear fusion research is still plugging away and making gradual advances; both the torus/tokamak kind (hot plasma contained in magnetic fields in donut-like apparatus) - see The Economist - and the laser ignition kind (triggering fusion by firing very powerful lasers at small capsules of fuel) - see BBC.
  • Researchers have developed a camera system that detects lies through analysis of various subtle unconscious signs that people display when they lie. It currently works about two thirds of the time, as the BBC report.
  • Various now ubiquitous technologies and inventions were at first dismissed as insignificant or not commercially viable - including the telephone and Post-It notes. The BBC runs through a few more.
  • Wired recently visited MS Research, and took a look at some of their latest endeavours - depth sensing cameras extending from the Kinect tech, 3D printers for custom mice, the next generation of the Surface, etc. See report.

Business;

  • From Inc, a brief piece on how Dropbox was founded (partly because of a forgotten USB drive).

GameDev;

  • Gamasutra have an interview with John Carmack here, where he talks about finishing Rage, his thoughts on multiplatform development and the future of game technology, and more.
  • Also from Gamasutra, in a piece summarising a talk at GDC Europe a few weeks back, JE Sawyer (from Obsidian, of Fallout: New Vegas fame) discusses five lessons they’ve learned about gameplay design for RPGs
  • From trade magazine Edge, an interesting piece on the creation of Valve’s popular co-op zombie game Left 4 Dead.
  • Speaking of John Carmack, id have just released the source code for the iOS ports of DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D, as is their custom - see the Bethesda blog announcement.

Gaming;

  • Confirming long-standing rumours, EA has announced that cult classic squad strategy game Syndicate is set to return, but, it turns out, as an FPS. Whether or not that’ll work is anyone’s guess, but PC Gamer have some nice-looking screenshots in any case.
  • In a story on very similar lines, here’s 22 minutes of XCOM footage from E3, demoing the classic strategy game which is now being remade in FPS form.
  • On a happier note, 20 minutes of gameplay footage of Skyrim, as demoed to journalists at E3. Impressive stuff. Also from Bethesda’s direction, a new gameplay trailer for id’s Rage, featuring rich environments and frenetic combat.
  • And on an even happier note, that familiar cello solo, scenery-chewing monologue and over-the-top gunplay? Yes, it’s the first trailer for Max Payne 3.
  • Speaking of debut trailers, here's the first one for the upcoming Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Misc;

  • If you’ve wondered how digital artists do their thing, here's a cool timelapse video of an artist painting one of the critters in online game Everquest, plus detailed commentary on the artistic process.
  • Ferries in Bangladesh are key to the country’s economy, as this BBC gallery describes.
  • And again with the photo galleries; a collection of colour photos from New York City around the WWII era.
  • This is pretty cool; a photographer decided to capture the look on friends and family’s faces when he told them that he was to become a father; see the results.
  • Speaking of children, various famous “grown-up” authors also wrote lesser known childrens’ books - including Oscar Wilde, Aldous Huxley (of Brave New World fame), Ian Flemming, Leo Tolstoy and more. See here and here.
  • Continuing the art theme, from 1972, one of the first 3D rendered films ever produced (by graphics legend Ed Catmull, who was later to found Pixar) - see article.

Filed under aroundtheweb

8 notes &

Founders At Work

Founders At Work cover

According to my trusty Kindle, I’ve finally finished this book (it’s substantial; hard-copy is 500 pages in medium-large paperback form with a compact font), and figured I’d fire out a quick endorsement. Short version: it’s great and anyone with any interest in startups and/or the IT industry will enjoy it.

The book is straightforward; it’s a series of a few dozen interviews by Jessica Livingston (one of the founding partners at Y Combinator) with the founders of various tech companies, new and old. These interviews are of the sort you might see in Wired or Inc; a handful of brief questions with answers generally expanded on at length by the interviewee - this isn’t a quick back-and-forth Q&A. The structure of the book means that it’s very accessible - even though it’s long overall, you can just jump in and read a particular interview you’re interested in for a pick-up-and-read experience.

The interviewees are of course the real value in the book, and they really do cover the gamut. This includes the legendary Steve Wozniak talking about the early days of Apple (practically creation myth stuff for folks in this line of work), the founding of Adobe and the stories of VisiCalc and Lotus. The book being published in 2006, it also ranges to more modern giants such as Joel Spolsky on Fog Creek’s origins, Craig Newmark (Craigslist.com), the creators of Hot or Not, PayPal, Hotmail, GMail, Del.icio.us, Firefox, Flickr, RIM (of Blackberry fame), the TiVo system, TripAdvisor, 37Signals and more. If that list of startups doesn’t have you salivating, this book ain’t for you and neither is the tech industry.

The interviews are, almost without exception, fascinating reading, and offer great insight into the origins of some of the most famous tech companies out there, not to mention plenty of valuable advice for would-be entrepreneurs. Not sure the world needs another 10-steps-to-founding-whatever from the likes of me, but in any case, some of the key themes that come through throughout the book are persistence (many interviewees emphasise that point), adaptability (several of these companies grew as spin-offs or sidelines of previous ideas), passion and belief (another oft-repeated mantra) and the importance of good partners and good hiring.

Well, there’s really not much more to say about it. If you want to know how some of the hottest companies and products in this industry got built, either for its own sake or because you want to do some building yourself, go buy this book.

Filed under review Business tech books

0 notes &

Around the web XXXIV

Anyone concerned about recent lack of activity on this blog should refer their complaints to Eidos Montreal.

Sci/Tech;

  • Bell Labs have been behind many of the most significant inventions and discoveries in the past century - the transistor, the laser, UNIX, the CCD image sensor and C/C++ not being the least of them. With 25,000 patents and seven Nobel Prizes going back over 100 years, it’s hard to keep track of all those achievements, so they had a design firm create an interactive whiteboard to make their history of research and innovation more accessible. See story and video.
  • The two main approaches for dealing with a body after death have always been burial of various sorts and cremation. A US company is working on a third option, effectively chemically dissolving bodies. Sounds a bit bizarre, but they reckon it’s viable and more environmentally friendly than cremation, as the BBC report.
  • Earth’s core is a mysterious place that’s still not very well understood, particularly the processes behind the magnetic fields it generates. See BBC report.
  • Back in the late 1800’s, there was a horse called Hans who could apparently tap out numbers with a hoof when he saw them written on a blackboard. Various investigations seemed to confirm that he did indeed have the ability. The subsequent more detailed investigations and ultimate explanation of how Hans was able to perform his trick offer important insight into the necessity for “double blind” methods as used in modern scientific experiments. Read all about it.
  • Engineer and computer conservationist Tony Sale passed away recently. Amongst other things, he established the Bletchley Park computing museum in the UK and led the difficult rebuilding of the WWII-era Colossus code-breaking computer. The BBC have an obituary.
  • This is strangely compelling; a web app that uses a genetic algorithm to evolve better designs for small wheeled vehicles, by combining wheels and some basic 2D shapes. You can watch the results play out in realtime as it works (it can take a while to come up with useful designs). It uses the Box2D physics library for the vehicle simulation, incidentally.
  • Research from Cambridge has revealed that the cholera pandemic that has spread across the world for the past several decades has a single source in the Bay of Bengal; see BBC report. The research also shows how the disease “jumps” from place to place via long-haul air travel.

Dev;

  • Microsoft development manager Tim Heuer has been working at Microsoft’s main campus for the past year or so; he offers some interesting reflections on the experience in a blog post.

Gaming;

  • Jagged Alliance remakes and sequels and so on have appeared and disappeared over recent years in some kind of complex dance. In addition to the new Jagged Alliance game (JA: Back In Action) presented at E3, the latest one apparently involves a browser-based revival of the classic turn-based squad game; Jagged Alliance Online. Here’s a preview.
  • Speaking of such, old-school gaming site GOG.com have been adding their second batch of EA games from that publisher’s storied back catalogue. This includes some absolute classics; original god game Populous, seminal space sims Wing Commander 1&2, cult classic bad-guy management sim Dungeon Keeper 2, and from the mists of the 80’s, Ultima 1/2/3 and 4.
  • On a (much) more modern note, Rock Paper Shotgun have an interview with id’s Tim Willits talking about RAGE.
  • Again at the cutting edge, some Battlefield 3 material; a single-player preview from EuroGamer and some details on the vehicle system from the official blog. Amongst other things, vehicles will have slots for customisation and their health will recharge (within limits) to give non-engineers a chance. To give long-suffering engineers a chance, they’ll also stop moving when critically damaged so you can repair them without getting reversed over (though the weapons will still work, for Black Hawk Down/Zulu moments).

Misc;

  • The HMV store on London’s Oxford St has been around for some time (though not that long by London’s august standards) - here’s a photo set showing how things looked in there in the 60’s.
  • Namibia’s Skeleton Coast where the desert meets the ocean is a strange and desolate place, plagued by dense fogs and littered with shipwrecks and abandoned settlements, as this BBC travel story describes.
  • I’ve always been interested in different office designs, and this blog covers plenty of offices from tech companies and others.
  • Ever wondered how celebrities looked in their school yearbook photos? The BBC have gathered up a few youthful examples for you to peruse.
  • Small Lives is an exhibition of photographs of Irish children over the past century or so. The Journal.ie have a fascinating selection of them here.
  • Two Muslim chaps in the US set out on a road trip for Ramadan, profiling a diverse range of American Muslims in 30 mosques across 30 states, finishing up a few days ago. Read about it on the BBC, or see the project’s blog.
  • Again with the art and photos, here’s a gallery of 50 impressive pieces of graffiti art.

Filed under aroundtheweb

0 notes &

Around the web XXXIII

Some random facts for you; the B-2 stealth bomber has an optical sensor system that warns the pilot if the aircraft starts generating contrails that would give away their position, and in old English, the verb “to mock” used to mean “to imitate”/”to copy”, and is still used in that sense in the term “mock-up”.

Sci/tech;

  • You can admire the evolution of Apple’s print ads from the late 70’s to the present in this piece from Web Designer Depot. Times change.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how wind farms get built, the BBC have a detailed article and interactive multimedia piece on the topic.
  • Sketchub is an interesting piece of work - a shared whiteboard that allows very deep zooming. It was built using HTML5 with a view towards tablets, Surface-type devices, etc, as well as PCs. Sharing a specific whiteboard is as simple as sharing the unique link to it. Check it out and read more on the blog.
  • And if you’ve ever wondered how books are put together, this set of videos from the Discovery channel and elsewhere shows the evolution of the process over the years.

Gaming;

  • European games expo GamesCom was on recently, resulting in plenty of new announcements and trailers. Far from least among them, this wild gameplay trailer from a giant Battlefield 3 map (64-player), featuring jets, amongst many other things. From the same game, PC Gamer have a run-down of some of the weapons and equipment that will feature.
  • Starsiege: Tribes/Tribes 2 were interesting but somewhat lesser-known games, forerunners of the team-based multiplayer FPS in the late 90’s/early 2000’s shortly before Battlefield 1942 planted its flag. Unlike Quake, Unreal and similar multiplayer shooters, they featured large outdoor environments, vehicles, varied equipment and objective-based gameplay with an emphasis on teamwork and specialist roles. And jetpacks, plus an infamous skiing mechanic for traversing hills in a hurry. Well, there’s a new Tribes game in the works for a while now; the free-to-play Tribes: Ascend. PC Gamer have some impressions from GamesCom. Incidentally, the Torque engine currently used by some indie gamedevs originally derived from the engine used in Tribes 2.
  • On Prey 2, some new screenshots and the final part of their E3 trailer developer’s commentary.
  • From a little further back at QuakeCon, Bethesda’s very interesting retro-future first-person sneaker/assassination game Dishonored also gets some new screens, an interview and a preview. Dishonored, set in some kind of steampunk London, involves some of the art and design talent behind such innovative titles as Deus Ex, Thief, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and Half-Life 2.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution (yeah, yeah, here I go again) is now out in the US, with the EU release coming at midnight Friday. If you have access, go play it - it’s apparently quite good. If you don’t, here’s a blog post with 10 memories of the game’s development from James Swallow, novelist and also one of game’s writers. Amongst other things, his very first writing for the project was the phrase “It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.” - later featured in the game’s trailer.

Business;

  • In an interesting blast from the past, Huffington Post dug up a video interview with Mark Zuckerburg from 2005 - see post. At this stage, Facebook was still very much a college community site, active in a few hundred colleges and celebrating its 3 millionth user (hence all the beer). Facebook is now, well, Facebook. A non-trivial portion of the population of the planet (11%, best guess) has an account with them.
  • The internet can offer great opportunities to folks in the developing world via sites like Elance and Freelancer.com, as the BBC reports.

Dev;

  • LinkedIn just launched a new mobile web app, based on HTML5 with Node.js on the backend. This brief piece from DevBeat gets some background from LinkedIn on how the app works.
  • If you’ve wondered (I seem to be using that line a lot) exactly how a modern web browser processes and renders a page, HTML5Rocks.com have a very in-depth and interesting piece on the topic, based on some exhaustive work by an Israeli researcher, Tali Garsiel.
  • Fuzz testing is a form of black-box robustness test that involves throwing dodgy and badly broken data into your software’s inputs to see how it handles it, thus discovering bugs. If you’re Google, you can do that on a grand scale, as their blog post about fuzz testing Flash describes.
  • A new MSDN blog has just been launched where the team building Windows 8 will discuss its ongoing development. So far, they’ve discussed file management improvements (e.g. you’ll be able to pause file copy operations), USB 3.0 support, and the team behind the project.

GameDev;

  • Crytek have just released a free (for non-commercial and/or educational use) version of their CryEngine 3 (of Crysis 2 fame), following in the footsetps of Epic’s Unreal Engine UDK, etc. Get the SDK while it’s hot.
  • The Advances in Real-time Rendering course from SIGGRAPH 2011 now has the first slides, videos, etc available online, with more to come. Course content included presentations on CryEngine 3 and Frostbite 2’s rendering systems, lighting tech from God of War 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops, tech for voxels, geometry management, skin shading and plenty more.

Misc;

  • This Facebook album (the three of you who don’t have Facebook accounts may or may not be able to access that link) has 200 photos of street scenes from Dublin of yesteryear (70’s and earlier, it looks like).
  • If you want to sleep with the fishes, this underwater hotel bedroom in the Maldives should fit the bill (a very very large bill, I suspect). It’s actually an underwater restaurant, but they apparently convert it to a suite for special occasions.
  • In the nuts-but-impressive category, here’s an article and video showing a $1.7m steampunk-themed loft apartment.

Filed under aroundtheweb

2 notes &

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

The press embargo’s lifted in the past half hour, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution reviews are popping up all over. Exec summary: it’s very goddamned good. PC Gamer’s review (previously available in print) is here, here’s one for the XBox version from IGN, and here’s another from Bit-Tech. Keep an eye on Metacritic for more.

The game comes out around midnight in the US, midnight Friday in Europe. Personally, I’ve pre-ordered it, something I very rarely do given how hit and miss games can be. Don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

Filed under games

1 note &

Cool/novel blogs revisited

I’ve posted a few cool blogs in my collections of interesting links over the past while, some of which I’ve since forgotten to keep up with myself. With that in mind, figured I’d post a recap for the benefit of folks who’ve only started reading here recently, or just forgotten about ones I previously posted.

  • The Burning House. This cool little Tumblr blog takes submissions from folks describing (in photo form with accompanying guides) the items they’d rescue from their house if it was on fire. Being as a lot of submissions come from artist/designer types, the photos and stories are often quirky and artistic. And feature a lot of MacBooks.
  • Literally Unbelievable. Another Tumblr blog and endless source of amusement, this. Stories from satirical news site The Onion, as interpreted by unfortunate folks on Facebook who’ve missed the satire bit.
  • Dear Photograph. Yet another quirky Tumblr blog, this one shows shots taken of old photographs in the spot where the original photo was taken (just look at the damn thing, it’ll make more sense).
  • The Big Picture. Most of you will probably already know this blog, but just in case not, this photo blog from the Boston Globe is absolutely worth following; regular collections of high-quality press photos on various topics.
  • Don’t forget The Atlantic’s series of photo collections from WWII is still ongoing - they’re on 9 sets at this stage.
  • And last but not least, not exactly a blog, but another ongoing content site you should keep an eye on - 500px.com, like Flickr but much more angled towards pros. Some really great work to be found here.

These are just a few blogs I’ve highlighted in my link roundups - I have a great deal more I regularly follow on Google Reader and the likes, mostly on more specialised topics (mainly technical). I may get around to highlighting some of them later on.

If you have any interesting blogs along those lines to share yourself, by all means leave a comment.

Filed under links blogs

1 note &

Around the web XXXII

In events of historical significance, the PC was first unleashed by IBM almost exactly 30 years ago in the form of their 5150; here’s the original press release reproduced on the IBM website.

Sci/Tech;

  • This blog post (including video) describes a recent European technology and robotics expo (the European Future Technologies Conference). Some impressive stuff demoing there - the humanoid robot “child” that reaches out and grasps a ball from the user’s hand is particularly so.
  • This BBC piece describes the creation of a prototype skin-mounted sensor - resembling an “electronic tattoo”, that’s flexible and thin enough to be stuck directly on the skin, where it can monitor vital functions.
  • Scientists have engineered an organism (a nematode worm) with artificially extended DNA that produces custom molecules not otherwise present in nature, as the BBC report. Previously this had only been achieved in bacteria or other very simple organisms.
  • As reported recently when Steve Jobs attended a city council meeting, Apple are planning a very impressive new HQ in Cupertino. The “Apple Campus II” will involve a giant circular building - a bit like the Pentagon with Apple design sensibility applied. TechCrunch now have a bunch more images and details from their planning applications.
  • Here’s a very cool 3D panorama of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s cockpit/flight deck.

Business;

  • This piece from the Boston Globe describes the founding and rise of capsule coffee giant Keurig, only established in the early 90’s but with revenues now heading into the billions.

Dev;

  • If you wondered what you could achieve with HTML5 or WebGL, Evan Wallance’s projects page has some cool examples - water rendering, a FSM (finite state machine) designer, realtime image manipulation, etc.
  • From SIGGRAPH, Microsoft demonstrates KinectFusion - realtime 3D reconstruction of scenes using a Kinect as a scanner - see article and video.

Gaming;

  • PC Gamer have some new Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim screenshots, showing several characters in-game.
  • Also from PC Gamer, a new RAGE dev diary trailer discussing the game’s sound and art.
  • Valve just announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a refresh of the classic multiplayer game for PC and consoles to be released early next year. See the announcement and a hands-on account from a pro gamer who spent some time with the game.

GameDev;

  • Speaking of Kinect, Linux staple Tux Racer has been given Kinect support - see video and project page.

Misc;

  • In this touching piece, the New York Times’ photography blog describes a project by James Mollison, with a collection of photos depicting the different environments where children around the world sleep.
  • How did animated films get made in the pre-Pixar days? A vintage documentary from Disney explains. (It involved “hundreds of pretty girls” amongst other things; corporate PR has changed along with animation tech, it would seem). See video.
  • Der Spiegel have an interesting interview with Guillaume Néry, a 29-year-old champion free diver (athletes who dive very deep without the aid of SCUBA gear or other equipment).
  • A brief but hard-hitting op-ed piece from Warren Buffett was published today by the New York Times, calling for less pandering to the very rich with tax breaks. I’d sell the piece more, but this is Warren Buffett. Just read it.

Filed under aroundtheweb

1 note &

Around the web XXXI

In an effort to keep my blog topical and up with current affairs, here’s a photo from the London riots of a police officer wielding a riot shield.

Sci/tech;

  • HCI legend Bill Buxton (not to be confused with rock legend Bruce Dickinson) just uploaded two new historical videos to his YouTube channel. The first is a documentary film from 1971 about a music producing computer - the first computer Bill ever experienced, and one that he’s often referenced in his commentary since. The second, also from 1971 (you can tell from the sideburns and very serious voiceover), shows a sophisticated computer animation system, an early example of user-centered design. Also, note the mouse.
  • Graphics conference SIGGRAPH is on this week, with a wide range of very cool research for graphics and interaction folks (the latter via the Emerging Technologies section in particular). Here’s a video preview (from a couple months back) of some of the technical papers being presented, and a (fast) preview of the Emerging Technologies section. To pick a random bit of research, here’s the homepage and video for a project from Cornell researching the production of high-quality synthetic contact sounds (ie, simulating the sounds made when things hit each other), taking into account friction, vibrations, etc. If you want more of this kind of thing, the busy Ke-Sen Huang has gathered up the available papers (mostly those related to realtime rendering) at his handy site, as ever. Google and YouTube searches will also turn up plenty more material.
  • Amazon have just launched Kindle Cloud Reader, a well-presented online HTML5-based reader for Kindle books (currently works in Chrome and Safari, including mobile Safari). You can now read your Kindle book collection online from anywhere, as well as the existing options of the Kindle itself or clients for PC/Mac/iPhone/Android. A significant detail re what Amazon are up to is that this client works on the iPad, with no chance of involvement from Apple.
  • "Cycles of violence" whereby abused children go on to become abusers themselves are well-documented in humans, but it seems at least some animals may experience similar behaviour. Baby birds that are abused in a colony have been observed to be more likely to engage in such abuse themselves as adults, as the BBC reports.
  • 123D Sculpt, an iPad finger sculpting app just launched by CAD heavyweights Autodesk, is currently going free in the App Store. Haven’t tried it myself, but appears to work well on the iPad. Previous noteworthy apps from Autodesk include SketchBook Express (and Pro for the iPad), a nice iOS version of their sketching/drawing app. The SketchBook apps are now available for Android too, incidentally.
  • If you’ve ever wondered how top-end Lamborghinis get designed and manufactured (very laboriously and with a great deal of attention), Wired have a very interesting look inside a factory producing Aventadors.

Gaming;

  • Again from QuakeCon, more screenshots of Prey 2 and a preview of the increasingly interesting-sounding Dishonoured.
  • Also news of the collector’s edition of Skyrim, which will cost €150, but feature a foot-high dragon sculpture and 200-page art book, amongst other things.
  • The third part of the E3 gameplay footage of Metro: Last Light has been released as promised, featuring a wild train battle.

Misc;

  • For the fashion-concious among you, we have here a pair of sandals made from recycled computer parts. Decorative only, not surprisingly.
  • The Atlantic have a collection of photos taken by a journalist visiting North Korea earlier this year.
  • Speaking of North Korea and other obscure parts of the world, BBC travel have a list of suggested novel holiday destinations, both exotic and more reachable. Sleep in a hotel in the cabin of a shipping crane, camp on a raft, etc.
  • Also from the Far East, a panorama of photographs taken six months after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (scroll down for more). The level of almost total devastation is readily apparent.

Filed under aroundtheweb

0 notes &

Around the web XXX

Today (at time of writing anyway) marks the 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee launching the World Wide Web. Take a knee. You can read his original post to the alt.hypertext newsgroups introducing the WWW project here, and read about the Web’s history in general on Wikipedia.

Sci/tech;

  • The British Library are making many thousands of books from their classics collection available by way of an iPad app, as the BBC report.
  • Facebook have a new, cutting-edge data centre in the empty scrublands of central Oregon. The Economist took a look around the facility, in particular at the server cooling approaches Facebook use.
  • For animators looking to pose characters quickly, QUMA tech enables them to manipulate a physical figure to the desired pose which is followed in realtime by the on-screen 3D model. Pretty cool - see demo video (titles in Japanese). The product is developed by SoftEther (seems to be a campus company from Tokyo) - see their page for more.
  • A concept video from Toyota showing the possibilities of touch-screen UIs and transparent displays built into a car’s passenger windows.

Dev;

  • Chosen, a handy-looking JQuery/Prototype plugin, aims to make drop-down selection boxes a lot more usable. Impressive.

Gaming;

  • In case you’ve wondered what that Deus Ex: Human Revolution game is that I’ve been going on about a lot lately, here’s a handy video summary of the game. For those already familiar with it, here’s a new video dev diary discussing the sound, music and voice acting in the game.
  • Amazing-looking indie game Limbo is now available on the PC - get it on Steam.
  • This trailer for upcoming MMO The Secret World doesn’t show much about the game, but it does give us some idea how Harry Potter might work if he was more of a whiskey and cigarettes kinda guy.
  • QuakeCon is on at the moment, and thus we’re getting plenty of new material on id’s RAGE, the upcoming Elder Scrolls sequel Skyrim and other Bethesda games. PC Gamer have some new RAGE screenshots, there’s a new RAGE trailer showing some of the game’s story and enemies, and there’s a new hand-ons preview of Skyrim on GameSpot. A RAGE dev diary trailer from a little further back discusses the game’s arsenal of weapons.
  • Also on RAGE, Bethesda have a 6 part behind-the-scenes video series going for a few weeks now, see the first entry (focussing on id’s storied gaming history) and the rest on their YouTube channel.
  • More details have emerged from QuakeCon about Bethesda’s new game, Dishonoured - see GameSpot preview and PC Gamer video.
  • The cool Prey 2 cinematic and live action trailers released back around E3 also get some developer commentary on the Bethesda blog - see parts 1 and 2.

GameDev;

  • Also from QuakeCon, John Carmack has firmed up plans to release the source code for DOOM 3 (the id Tech4 engine) once RAGE is finished. See Gamasutra story. You can watch his keynote in full on YouTube.

Misc;

  • Sending people to jail for attempting suicide? As the BBC report, this wasn’t unusual up to a few decades ago.
  • In Down and Out In Paris and London, George Orwell wrote about poverty, isolation and living and working hand-to-mouth. In this interesting piece, a BBC correspondent looks at peoples’ daily experiences of poverty and isolation in those two cities.
  • There are a lot of abandoned buildings in Detroit, and not just apartments and houses. This photo collection from the Denver Post blog provides some haunting images of urban ruin.
  • In one of the numerous lesser-known twists and turns of WWII, many Japanese families were stranded in what became the far east of the USSR at the end of the war. This BBC piece tells their story.
  • I first read about this group in the Economist a few years back; the Mouride Brotherhood, a community of Sufi Muslims in Senegal who practise entrepreneurship and hard work as a matter of faith. Many Senegalese street traders in Europe are members, and the global reach of their network is impressive to say the least. The BBC recently reported the story.

Filed under aroundtheweb